Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019.  He has a specific focus through his grant-funded position: reporting on water and water resources in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Through his on air and online reporting, Ben explores water as a necessity for life and as an identity for the region.

Prior to joining the WXPR team, Ben spent more than seven years serving in several roles at WJFW-TV in Rhinelander.

Originally from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Ben is a graduate of UW-Madison. He lives in Rhinelander with his wife, Erika.  Outside of work, Ben is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan.  He enjoys doing outdoor projects, running, and competing in triathlons.  Ben is also a WIAA basketball official and calls play-by-play for Rhinelander Hodags sports.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Standing at Grand Traverse Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula, a look right reveals picturesque yellow-sand beaches and unassuming seasonal homes.

A look left includes nothing but a black shoreline on this part of the peninsula, which juts into Lake Superior in Upper Michigan.

Jay Parent scooped up a handful of the pebbly black sand, which stretches out of sight on the shoreline.

“It was this high stamp sand right here all the way across the harbor,” Parent says, gesturing more than head-high.

In WXPR news on this Wednesday:

  • A special free food distribution remains active at the the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry
  • The Minocqua Town Board has approved shows for the Min-Aqua Bats waterski team to go forward
  • The Northwoods is approaching Depression-like jobless numbers
  • Some trends have drastically changed at a Northwoods domestic and sexual violence organization
  • Lac du Flambeau has cut the ribbon on a new shopping area

A local domestic and sexual violence advocacy group saw a 75-percent drop in requests for services in March and April due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But it wants people to know it’s fully available to provide help to those who need it.

Embrace serves survivors in Price, Rusk, Washburn, and Barron counties.

Sexual violence program coordinator Angela Frieze said the drop is not because less violence is occurring.

Tomahawk Fall Ride

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), the main organizer of the annual Tomahawk Fall Ride motorcycle event, has pulled its involvement from the 2020 event due to COVID-19.

“With the uncertainty of what is to come with COVID-19 we simply cannot risk the responsibility of any illnesses for our guests, customers and MDA clients,” wrote MDA Executive Director Murphy Maes.

MDA also hinted funding and staffing challenges during the pandemic played into the decision.

In Tuesday's WXPR news:

  • Oneida County reports mixed results in mask-wearing among the public
  • Oneida and Vilas counties have each reported their 10th cases of COVID-19
  • The Rhinelander Area Food Pantry will host a special distribution of food on Wednesday
  • Minocqua's Independence Day Parade has been canceled

Emily Stone

An outbreak of black flies is having major impacts on loon nesting in northern Wisconsin this spring.

This year, the peak of black fly activity has overlapped with the nesting season for loons in the Northwoods.

It’s similar to what happened in 2014, according to Erica LeMoine, the LoonWatch Program Director.

“It’s very irritating to the loons, as you can imagine. It causes them, often times, to leave the nest and leave the nest unattended. Sometimes, if it’s a particularly bad year, as it is this year, they will abandon their first nesting attempt,” LeMoine said.

The news on Friday includes:

  • Crandon has postponed its annual Brush Run
  • Some Northwoods locations had a major influx of visitors over the Memorial Day weekend
  • The Governor's Task Force on Climate Change is moving forward, focusing on environmental justice
  • The Lakeland Union High School Board's president has resigned
  • Advocates want people to keep seniors in mind as the state's economy opens up

Hodag Country Festival

Two days after Oneida County approved a plan allowing the 2020 Hodag Country Festival to go forward this summer in Rhinelander, festival organizers reversed course and canceled the event.

The event, which was to be held July 9 to 12, made the cancelation announcement Thursday afternoon.

In Thursday's midday news:

  • We have a roundup of new COVID-19 cases in Northwoods counties
  • The Community Blood Center can now test for coronavirus antibodies
  • The Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association is fundraising for a new trail at the Washburn Lake complex
  • Dredging has helped open the channel between the Three Lakes and Eagle River chains for better navigation

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

From a few yards away, a woman and four small children watch a massive machine rumble to life.

They stand, look, and point as a boat is lifted by the Burnt Rollways Boat Hoist, carried over a road and dam, and dropped gently in the water on the other side.

“It’s a novelty,” said Scott Blado, who is operating the machine. “It’s just kind of a thing that you go and do. It’s not really a ‘we’ve got to go that way’ kind of thing. It’s more of an event.”

This week, operators fired up the hoist, the only one of its kind in the state, for the summer season.

Wednesday's WXPR news includes:

  • Rhinelander's decision on the Independence Day parade and fireworks
  • A complaint about the city's hiring of an acting administrator
  • We now know the name of the person killing in a Tomahawk-area motorcycle crash
  • The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has a new plan for combating invasive species

Hodag Country Festival

Note: in an announcement Thursday, the Hodag Country Festival reversed course and announced the event had been canceled for 2020.

Despite concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hodag Country Festival will go forward this July.

Ripco Credit Union

  

Not long ago, Rhinelander’s Ripco Credit Union ran into a problem.

It couldn’t hire new employees because it was out of office space.

So, within the next two weeks, Ripco will begin a major expansion at its headquarters on Sutliff Avenue.

Vice President Diane Sowinski said discussions have been taking place for a year.

The credit union felt ready this spring, but had to figure out whether to go forward during a virus pandemic.

In WXPR news:

  • We have a roundup of farmers market opening dates across the area
  • A motorcyclist crashed and died near Tomahawk
  • Services have shifted, but mental health options still exist in the Northwoods
  • The home market in the area seems to be turning over quickly

UPDATE:

The Wisconsin State Patrol has released the name of the man killed over the holiday weekend in a Lincoln county motorcycle crash.

They report 49-yar old Michael A. Plummer of Merrill died in the crash. Plummer was driving a motorcycle on county 'S' at the Highway 107 intersection when the vehicle left the road and and hit a tree. The crash is believed to have happened overnight on Sunday and was discovered after 10:00 a.m. Monday. Plummer died at the scene.

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